I didn’t know the songtaos stopped running at 10pm. Man…I’m more than a hour’s walk away from home and its midnight…this is going to be a long night. One block, five blocks, a mile, I still haven’t seen any taxi’s…wait, is that a tuktuk? They rip you, off, but at least I’ll get home. “Duang Kamon,” I tell the driver after waving him down. He says “Yes, yes” so enthusiastically, he has to know where I want to go. We drive for about fifteen minutes, and he starts to slow down on this secluded street. Secluded besides that scantily clad woman standing in the street….and another…and ten more….where are we? The tuktuk slows down, stops, he looks at me, puts on a huge smile and says, “Here you go!” “No no no no no no no!” I tell him. Five minutes of explaining, ten more minutes of driving, and forty extra baht later I’m home, far, far, far away from the red light district.
Transportation is crazy here, but it works. Tuktuks are tourist traps, and they can charge up to five times more than songtaos, which the locals use. Songtaos are small pickup trucks with two benches in the back. Some of them go on certain routes, but red songtaos will take you any where. So far on songtaos: I’ve cut my eye opening the door, talked trash about Dublin with some Irish women, arrived at four different destinations before the driver understood where I actually wanted to go, met a 17 year old monk from Napal, and have been totally ripped off driving up to the Buddhist temple, Doi Suteph.
The songtao could barely make it up the winding road up to Doi Suteph, but once we got there, we were greeted by dancing children, monks, and the most elaborate, gold-encrusted temple I’ve ever seen. It was a very peaceful place, but we were all overwhelmed. As great as my professors were at teaching the concepts of Buddhism at the university,I was not prepared to understand what was going on at Doi Suteph. It will be something to think about. I did receive a blessing from a monk, but I was mostly in it for the refreshing water he was sprinkling on visitors’ heads.
Songtaos have also taken me to my new apartment, above the shop of an eccentric dressmaker named Madame T. Immediately upon meeting her, she told me all about her son who had become a “lady-boy,” moved to Germany, and opened a dance club. As I laughed uncomfortably, she transitioned into presenting her business plan, which she had just acquired on a trip to Bangkok. This business plan was all in Thai, but she was so excited that I had to stay and hear the presentation.